The French Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, spoke of a "cultural disaster" if the company Christian Lacroix were to disappear, so says Les Echos of 28th July. The future of this great couture brand seems to have turned into the French soap opera of this summer. Placed under receivership on June 2 after a 2008 financial year showing 10 million Euros in losses for a 30-million turnover, Christian Lacroix has seen two buyers (the Borletti group, owner of La Rinascente and Printemps) rushing to its bedside. I propose a brief analysis of this situation. It can be covered in 3 points:
- Founded in 1987 with the support of LVMH, Christian Lacroix, since its inception, has been one of the fashion journalists' favourite brands, and praise rained steadily on its creator: His haute couture creations have often been cited among the most beautiful every season.
- However, it has never been profitable: this is one of the reasons why LVMH sold it to Falic in 2005. The reason is simple: Christian Lacroix never had a line of accessories worthy of the name, a fragrance worthy of the name, nor a successful ready-to-wear range (the Jeans and Bazar collections were stopped in 2005 / 6) ... All the luxury fashion houses originating from the haute couture world need these relays to grow into genuine brands: Christian Lacroix, which did not have any, could not become profitable.
- So we find here not a modern luxury brand, but an artisan of high fashion. We can then understand why the company has had 11 successive CEOs since its inception. There apparently exists a conflict of spirit between the creator himself and the businessman who works with him. Christian Lacroix, speaking of the Falic brothers, said in Le Monde, June 4: "Two of them were eager to make money, the third seemed more serene. They courageously decided to stop the Jeans and Bazaar lines and focus on luxury. Many promises were made to me, but I was never given the means to work ... We must remain a haute-couture house at 200%". Make money? Perish the thought.... When a designer asserts that stopping ready-to-wear is a "courageous" decision, one understands the current situation of the company.
That is why I am convinced that no purchaser can make Christian Lacroix a successful brand ... except by breaking away from the creator. We have here a case study, representative of French couture: designers from haute couture, whose culture is fundamentally alien to the business models of contemporary luxury. I see here one of the reasons why French brands have been searching for foreign designers (John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld) to ensure their success, why generations of fashion designers, hailed by the press as immensely creative, do not survive ... Remember that the most iconic of them all, one that the whole world salutes as the most creative among them, Jean Paul Gaultier, survives thanks to royalties from the extraordinary success of the perfumes signed BPI....